BUTTE -- The Montana Tech football program has prided itself on an established ground game during Chuck Morrell's tenure as head coach, and 2018 was no different. The Orediggers ranked second in the Frontier Conference in rushing yards, tallying 1,736 yards on the ground, with 1,340 of those coming from conference-leading back Jed Fike.
While Fike was a mainstay in Tech's offense, the Orediggers did see a revolving wheel at quarterback last fall, with four different athletes completing passes.
Injuries sidelined starter Tanner Kump and backup Cole Hauptman, forcing Morrell to turn to Billings Central product Jet Campbell, who switched from his wide receiver position to start the final four games for the Orediggers. Campbell stepped right in, finishing the season with 98 completions for 976 yards and eight touchdowns, including a four-touchdown performance in a 38-31 overtime win over nationally ranked Southern Oregon in late October.
Fast forward to this fall camp, and Campbell is again under center, leading a quarterback group currently consisting of eight athletes, including redshirt freshman Brandon Battle and Montana State transfer Kaleb Winterburn.
Morrell says Campbell has been impressive during the first week of practices.
“No. 1 is leadership and No. 2 is execution. I think so far Jet Campbell is off to a great start. He’s put in a lot of extra work," said Morrell. "Brandon Battle is having a phenomenal camp for us and we have a lot of other guys competing there, too. It’s exciting to have that room full of guys that have a passion for the game and want to get on the field.”
Tech did rank last in the league in passing yards (2,107) and yards-per-completion (5.6) a season ago, but Fike and the ground game lifted the Orediggers to No. 5 in the Frontier in total offense. Tech's 18 passing touchdowns were enough to rank third in the conference during the 2018 season.
Despite being the front-runner for the starting quarterback position, Montana Tech's online roster still lists Campbell as a wide receiver. His career stats as a pass-catcher? One reception for 20 yards against Montana Western last season.
Tech opens its 2019 campaign against Frontier Conference preseason favorite College of Idaho. The Orediggers and Yotes kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Bob Green Field.